Two Northsiders are coming together to publish a bilingual fiction chapbook.
Israel Centeno, a writer-in-residence at City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, will release “Bamboo City” on April 12. This will be Centeno’s English-language debut as well as the first book released by Wild Age Press, a start-up publishing company based in Pittsburgh headed by Northsider and former Northside Chronicle writer, Kelly Thomas.
The chapbook will include the original Spanish with a side-by-side English translation done by Ezra Fitz. The book consists of stories and poetic prose with poetry interspersed throughout.
“The texts blur reality and seek an indeterminate discourse, which appears at times like dreams. Some story lines, some sketches of dreams, are troubled by the sensuality of nostalgia, rootlessness or exile,” Centeno said in describing his writing in Bamboo City.
Centeno came to the Northside after living in Venezuela, but he notes that there are similarities between the two places.
“I ceased belonging [in Venezuela] and started this journey that has brought me to this part of Pittsburgh,” he said. “Through these traps of the mind, these environments that I have likened to the narrow streets, passages, buildings that seem to me like the Caracas of my childhood. […] I had, already old and in Pittsburgh, a connection with moments of my youth and my childhood.”
Much of the writing in “Bamboo City”deals with the themes of rootlessness, spite and painful memory, but Centeno felt that he had to root these themes in a specific place in his writing. “An image of a city in Indochina came to mind, and in the midst of those mists appeared Bamboo City,” said Centeno.
Apart from “Bamboo City,” Centeno recently finished a new novel entitled “There Are No Sunsets in Tokyo.” This latest novel is one of three that Centeno wrote but are left unpublished. “For me, it’s important to find a translator, a publisher that I want to gamble on with my written work. That is the challenge, and to keep writing,” said Centeno.
Luckily, Centeno found a publisher he could trust with Wild Age Press.
The book will be published in a limited edition of 50 and will celebrate its release with a party on April 12 at 7:30 p.m. The release party will take place in the Welker Room in Laughlin Hall at Chatham University.
Kelly Thomas, the founder of Wild Age Press, is a graduate student at Chatham. The next project Wild Age Press will tackle is a no-rules writing contest. More information on the contest can be found on the Wild Age Press website.
City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s director Henry Reese helped connect Thomas and Centeno for this project. CoA/P also provided the translation to English for the chapbook.
“It is my hope that this chapbook in some small way helps Israel’s work find a broader audience,” said Thomas. “I’ve become really invested in it over the course of publication, and I want to see some of his novels translated into English in the very near future.”
Centeno previously published 12 books in Spanish. He published nine of those in Venezuela and three in Spain.
“Calletania,” Centeno’s first novel, won Venezuela’s National Council of Culture award in 1992 and was a finalist for the Municipal Prize for Fiction of Caracas. In 2009, his novel “Bajo las Hojas” was among 10 finalists for the Iberoamericano Planeta-Casamérica prize. Centeno has won other prizes for his poetry and short stories.
All Centeno quotes translated by Kelly Thomas.